The BBC yesterday posted quotes from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif describing sectarian strife between Sunnis and Shiites as – per the outlet – “probably the most serious threat to world security.”
Zarif’s assessments come a week after the BBC posted footage captured from an Iranian cameraman who had been embedded with a unit of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) fighters in Syria. The war-torn country has become a battlefield for a regional proxy war pitting Sunnis against Shiites, and support from Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah has been critical in enabling the Bashar al-Assad regime to survive. The footage documents extensive Iran’s participation in the sectarian conflict.
BBC experts verified the video, which included interviews with a top IRGC figure explaining that he viewed the war as one between “Islam and the infidels,” and describing how domestic and foreign fighters had been trained in Iran before being dispatched to Syria.
Iranian leaders are not the only ones from the Iran/Hezbollah/Syria camp to complain – some observers might suggest to risibly complain – about sectarian fighting and the presence of foreign fighters in Syria. Late in October Assad himself complained to Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations’ special envoy to Syria, about the same ssue:
President Bashar al-Assad of Syria told the United Nations special envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, on Wednesday that no political solution could be reached in Syria without an end to international support for the fighters battling his government… “Only the Syrian people are authorized to shape the future of Syria,” Mr. Assad said.
It is not known whether Brahimi or any other official queried Assad about the crucial assistance provided to the regime by Iran and by Iran’s Lebanese proxy Hezbollah. About a week later, however, UPI published an extensive piece unpacking the degree to which Iran now controls the Syrian regime:
The recent killing of an Iranian Revolutionary Guards general in Syria’s civil war underlines what analysts say is Tehran’s growing military presence in supporting its embattled ally, President Bashar Assad, with some saying the Iranians now control the regime’s military campaign. Brig. Gen. Mohammad Jamali-Paqaleh, a veteran of Iran’s 1980-88 war with Iraq, is at least the senior Guards Corps officer to be slain in Syria this year…
Suleimani, who was also a decorated hero of the 1980-88 war, is skilled in counter-insurgency warfare. Western and Arab intelligence services say he took command of Assad’s military operations against the disparate rebel forces, at Tehran’s behest, earlier this year and swiftly reversed the regime’s fortunes on the battlefield.
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